Microsoft Office Word is one of the most commonly used software editing programs of all the time, but we rarely think about how to make it work better to fit our needs. You might not realize it, but there are several easy ways to optimize Word to make it more efficient and effective when used in an academic setting. In this article, I will be sharing with you six practical tips on how to customize Microsoft Word to help save you time, create documents that are more professional and readable, as well as how to set up Word as a citation manager.
1) Don’t rely on Word’s default proofing settings
If you want Word to offer stylistic suggestions or if you’d like more data about your writing than word count, such as the number of passive sentences and readability statistics, you can turn on more options. Go to options—you should be able to find this under the file tab—and then Proofing. From here you will be able to turn on style suggestions and readability statistics, which will be available to you after you go through the spelling and grammar check suggestions.
2) Remove metadata
This is vital if you’re submitting something that is supposed to be fairly judged without knowledge of the author—e.g., peer review—or if you don’t want someone to know how long you’ve spent editing a document. To remove this metadata, go to the file tab and then select the info option. From there you can see a “Prepare for Sharing” button that you should use in some circumstances.
3) Use Field Codes
You should have an academic writing document template with embedded and automatically updating field codes. You can use these to insert things such as the date the document was most recently revised, the word count, etc. To start using field codes, go to the Insert tab, find the Quick Parts button and click on it, and select Field from the drop-down menu that will appear.
4) Use Word to create PDFs
You don’t need the full version of Adobe Acrobat to create PDFs. When saving a document, you can select PDF as the format and have a document that appears more final and professional.
5) Use a citation manager that has a Word plug-in
Don’t cite manually. Citation managers can be used to store and organize your references, including PDF files associated with them, and then to automatically cite and create bibliographies as you write in Word. I’m familiar with Endnote and Mendeley. Both are useful and have Word plug-ins for citing, but I’ve found Mendeley to be simpler to use for citing in Word, easier to learn, and better for organizing my journal article PDFs. Most importantly, Mendeley is free.
6) Use the Review tab
There are many things you can do from the review tab. Experiment with the Track Changes and Compare buttons. They won’t be entirely necessary for everything you do—especially the compare button—but they are indispensable in some situations.